Mitt Romney's neoconservative belief that a US Congress with a majority Democratic
leadership--leaders who tend to be voted in by a large black and brown voting bloc--speaks to
the elephant (or, republican) in the room this election year.
Romney offered the following observation at a private fundraising dinner several weeks prior to the first Presidential debate hosted at the University of Denver on October 3rd: "We're having a
much harder time with Hispanic voters. And if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed
to the Democrats as the African-American voting bloc has in the past, well, we're in trouble as a
party and, I think, as a nation."
According to Romney, the African-American and Hispanic voting blocs could pose a problem to
Republican progress, and, therefore, national advancement, if both blocs concentrate their votes
on the Democratic Party. The Republican Party, it seems, would no longer be in control of the
government and the country that it built. It should be noted that the House GOP is comprised
of a looming 86 percent of whites; which is not to support the false claim that the Republican
Party is a monolithic base populated only by white Americans. The National Black Republican
Association and the Republican National Hispanic Association exists as proof that the party is
comprised of individuals across various racial and ethnic identities even if the same diversity is
not matched in the party's composition of elected officials.
It seems fair to argue, however, that "republican" may be another metonym in US political
parlance for "white American" or a signifier used to describe those whose interests are deeply
invested in maintaining the privilege of whiteness. Consider, for example, the hundreds, if
not thousands, of modest "We Built It" signs touted at the Republican National Convention.
The "We Built It" propaganda is steeped in the idea of "American exceptionalism"--an idea that
renders the US as a shining beacon of hope and a nation of prosperity that exists as an exemplar
for the rest of the world.
Romney's recent remarks seem to connect the notion of American progression to the diligence
of neo-conservative Republicans who are grossly over-represented by a mostly white and
male contingent of leaders. Do these leaders comprise the collective "we" imagined by the
Republican Party? If so, such thinking might not come as a surprise too many Americans. Ask
any non-US citizen or black and brown American and one might surely discover that "American
exceptionalism" like "White exceptionalism" is as American as apple pie.
History is our teacher, surely. We know that America was built at the hands, if even by force,
of many non-white and indigenous peoples. That Romney and the Republican party imagines
an historical narrative of national progression as that which centers on Republicans (white
Americans) as architects of this country is evidence of that which we already know or, at the
least, feel even if we want to deny it: a Democratic majority in congress provokes fear in some
because it represents a breach in republican or white-centered control. Indeed, Romney's
comment signifies nothing less than White panic precipitated by the fear of a mostly brown
and black America. Guess we should have listened more carefully to Public Enemy's prophetic
message in "Fear of Black Planet" a few decades back. Romney is scared. He believes that a
move in the direction of Democratic leadership will result, ultimately, in a state of "trouble."
America be damned should the Republicans lose control.
A Solution to the Problem: Diversity the Republican Base?
Political pundits often note the need for the Republican Party to diversify its base and reach out
to communities of color so they can be seen as a party truly aware of the issues that "others"
face. Yet, Mitt Romney currently has zero percent of the Black vote in America and 26 percent
of the Latino vote, and Florida's Rubio is one of the few connections the Republican Party has to
the Latino community. Their reach, then, has landed them nothing but more of the same.
The novel idea of the Republican Party connecting to communities of color is merely an idea,
an un-actionable one at that. Votes are desired, but the change of power within government, the
reversal of our economic woes, the undoing of segregated educational institutions, the possibility
of immigration reform, and endings to state sponsored neo-Jim Crow mechanisms (like the
prison industry), which disproportionately impact the very black and brown people whom they
propagandize, are not agenda items on the Republican party platform. Indeed, they have begun
to formulate a platform that would not only reverse any promise of an American future free from
racialized forms of social and economic injustice, but prevent such a promise from ever being
Power, whether perceived or real, and the potential loss of power is driving some members
within the US to great lengths to preserve it. Is the idea of having a country run by a democratic
controlled congress, which is an easy fill-in for black and brown people or those a bit more
concerned about the plight of black and brown people in the US, that frightening? Maybe we
should attend to Romney's own sense of panic. Maybe we are in trouble after all. And, maybe
transformation of leadership is just the type of trouble we need.
Authors: Darnell L. Moore and Wade Davis,II co-author a monthly blog on race, gender
and sexuality on HuffingtonPost Gay Voices.